Ever notice how there’s never any commercials for McDonalds on The Weather Channel? Their parent company, Weather Group LLC, and Entertainment Studios Networks Inc, both owned by Byron Allen, thinks it’s because McDonalds is racist and they’re suing them for $10 billion as a result.
In a lawsuit filed this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Byron Allen’s companies filed a complaint alleging that “McDonald’s intentionally discriminated against Entertainment Studios and Weather Group through a pattern of racial stereotyping and refusals to contract” in violation of federal and state law.
Byron Allen acquired the Weather Channel in 2018 through his Entertainment Studios, paying previous owners The Blackstone Group, Bain Capital, and Comcast/NBCUniversal an estimated $300 million. Just 10 years earlier, the Weather Channel was acquired by Bain Capital, Blackstone Group, and NBCUniversal for $3.5 billion.
Allen, an African-American, got his start in television as the teenage co-host of the early 1980’s reality show, “Real People” on NBC. Since then, he’s developed a media empire owning other properties such as Cars.tv, Pets.tv, and Recipe.tv along with 23 ABC/NBC/CBS/FOX network affiliate broadcast stations in 19 U.S. markets. At the time of the Weather Channel purchase, Allen praised the Weather Channel’s role of keeping America safe.
“The Weather Channel is one of the most trusted and extremely important cable networks, with information vitally important to the safety and protection of our lives,” said Allen in a statement “We welcome The Weather Channel, which has been seen in American households for nearly four decades, to our cable television networks division.”
However, since Allen’s purchase of the network, the lawsuit alleges that McDonalds has refused to advertise even though they have “purchased significant advertising on similarly situated, white-owned networks.”
“This is about economic inclusion of African American-owned businesses in the U.S. economy,” said Allen. “McDonald’s takes billions from African American consumers and gives almost nothing back. The biggest trade deficit in America is the trade deficit between White corporate America and Black America, and McDonald’s is guilty of perpetuating this disparity. The economic exclusion must stop immediately.”
On the same day the lawsuit was filed, McDonalds announced they were increasing spend with “diverse-owned media, content, and production partners.”
“We’ve been making serious commitments that are guided by our values, and with this latest move, we’re taking action to advance diverse-owned companies across the marketing supply chain,” said Morgan Flatley, Chief Marketing and Digital Customer Experience Officer, McDonald’s USA. “We’re using our resources to support these platforms and businesses, which keep the brand at the center of culture while creating deeper relationships with our diverse customers, crew and employees.”
“As a Black female entrepreneur, I am proud to be a part of McDonald’s continued effort to meet Women and diverse-owned businesses where they are by providing much-needed resources to do business in an ever-evolving marketplace,” said Vicki Chancellor, Chair, McDonald’s USA Franchisee Marketing Committee. “It’s who we are as a leading brand that is doing our part to help underserved communities thrive.”
According to a statement released by McDonalds, they plan to increase national investments in diverse-owned companies from 4% to 10%; specifically, spend with black-owned media and production properties will increase from 2 to 5%, with additional investments going to other segments including Hispanic, Asian Pacific American, Women, and LGBTQ-owned properties.
McDonalds’ response to the lawsuit filed on the same day of their announcement was brief: “We will review the complaint and respond accordingly.”
The lawsuit claims McDonalds violated federal and California state law prohibiting racial discrimination in contracting and seeks actual and triple damages along with attorney fees and legal costs, estimating that the total sum exceeds $10 billion.